This week we feature an interview with veteran journalist Jonathan Alter. Alter’s fourth presidential biography, His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life, was published by Simon & Schuster in October 2020. It’s the first full-length biography of the oldest living president in American history. Alter is a long-time contributor and political analyst for NBC and MSNBC, and recently he was interviewed by fellow biographer David Greenberg via Zoom.
On Wednesday, June 24, BIO presents “Living on the Edge: Writing Biography of a Living Subject.”
Kai Bird (author of a forthcoming biography of President Jimmy Carter), David Greenberg (John Lewis), and Will Swift (Joan Baez) will talk about the the craft of writing an authorized or unauthorized life of a living subject. This form of biography requires juggling the skills of a journalist (tracking down key sources and interviewing them) and a historian (doing archival research).
Kai Bird is a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and the executive director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at CUNY’s Graduate Center in New York City. He is the author of four biographies and a memoir about his childhood in the Middle East.
David Greenberg is a professor of history at Rutgers University and a fellow this year at the Leon Levy Center for Biography. He is writing a biography of Congressman John Lewis, the civil rights leader, for Simon & Schuster. He is the author or editor of several books on American history and politics including Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image (2003) and Alan Brinkley: A Life in History (2019).
Will Swift, Ph.D., has written three books about presidents and presidential families, but at this grim national moment he wants to focus on the voices of protest over governments that attempt to suppress human rights and individuality. He is currently working on a proposal for a biography of Joan Baez. The working title is Protest Voice: Joan Baez and Her Time. Swift is the author of The Roosevelts and the Royals and The Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm. His most recent book, Pat and Dick: The Nixons, An Intimate Portrait of a Marriage, was shortlisted for the BIO Plutarch Award. Will is a founding board member and past president of BIO.